- Griffin Swartzell
- The prodigal axe: Flash Cadillac’s Warren Knight shares a joyful moment with the late singer Sam McFadin’s daughter Molly.
Back in the summer of 2012, prior to that September’s induction of Flash Cadillac into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, several artifacts were stolen from an Adams County warehouse storing the yet-to-be-unveiled exhibits, including the iconic electric guitar of Flash Cadillac frontman Sam McFadin.
McFadin, who joined the band in 1971 and acted as Flash Cadillac’s lead singer and guitarist during the band’s heyday, had passed away from a heart attack in 2001, and despite a “vigorous investigation,” it seemed unlikely that the guitar, donated to the Hall by McFadin’s family, would resurface. (In addition to McFadin’s guitar, other Flash Cadillac memorabilia were stolen, including Warren Knight’s gold record for the American Graffiti soundtrack and a leather jacket belonging to Linn Phillips, emblazoned with his nickname “Spike” in studs. Items were also stolen from the exhibit of Boulder-based surf act The Astronauts.)
Thankfully, the guitar did eventually resurface, when it was found to have been purchased by a musician in Mexico. The band raised money to buy back the custom-made Fender, with bassist and founding member Warren Knight sending its new owner a heartfelt letter offering the chance to “be a hero” to the McFadin family, as well as the members and extended fan family of Flash Cadillac. The guitar, happily, was returned to McFadin’s widow and daughter soon thereafter.
In addition to the McFadin family reclaiming an irreplaceable, prized possession, the guitar’s return is a welcome conclusion to what had been, mildly put, a huge injustice to a premier figure in Colorado music history. With McFadin as frontman, Flash Cadillac were hugely popular, making memorable appearances in the films American Graffiti and Apocalypse Now (they received a platinum record for their work on the former’s soundtrack), and appearing in a highly rated episode of Happy Days. They were also the first band to perform on American Bandstand prior to having any records released.
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